Levies and the race for president appear to be the issues of most interest to Washington County residents with Ohio's early voting period under way this week.
Early voting started Tuesday, but hardly with a bang.
"We've just had a trickle (voting in person) in here, I'd say maybe 20 people," Washington County Board of Elections director Peggy Byers said Wednesday afternoon.
About 150 people had requested absentee ballots by the end of the day Wednesday. Byers said for the August 2010 special election in which a Warren Local Schools bond issue was the only item, the office received about 600 requests for absentee applications before the early voting period even started.
"In comparison, this one looks kind of dead," she said.
The most excitement seems to be about the five levies on local ballots, Byers said, with a few voters noting they had just received their latest property tax bills. Four levies are up for renewal, including a 7.75-mill operating levy and a 2.69-mill permanent improvement levy in the Marietta City school district, a 5.76-mill emergency levy for Wolf Creek Local Schools and a 0.5-mill fire and emergency protection levy in Marietta Township. Marietta Township voters will also consider a 3.25-mill replacement levy for ambulance and emergency services.
At a glance
The primary election will be held March 6.
Early voting is now under way at the Washington County Board of Elections office in the courthouse. People can also submit ballots by mail.
The last day to register to vote in the primary is Monday, when the board office will be open until 9 p.m.
Sample ballots can be viewed online at www.electionsonthe.net/oh/washington/
Devola resident John Walsh, 72, said he plans to support the school levies.
"I vote for all levies because I believe that we need to support schools particularly and anything to help the common man," he said.
Walsh said he might request a Republican ballot but will likely choose an issues-only one so as not to affiliate with a particular party. He'll then make his mind up about who to vote for in the general election regardless of party affiliation.
While many candidates are unopposed in their party primary, there are a handful of contested races among Democrats and Republicans.
On the Republican side, there's a three-way race for one county commission nomination, five U.S. Senate candidates, four candidates seeking a seat on the 4th District Court of Appeals, two Washington County residents running for the nomination for the 6th District Congressional seat and two hopefuls for the 95th state House district.
Democrats will decide between two 6th District Congressional candidates, two 4th District appellate court hopefuls and an incumbent U.S. senator and a write-in.
But many voters say their attention has been more on the presidential race, particularly the Republican primary, than local offices.
"Right now we seem to be wrapped up in the national because it's all over the news, all day long," said Marietta resident Mary Antons, 65.
She said she has a favorite of the remaining four GOP presidential hopefuls - Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and frontrunner Mitt Romney - but she declined to say who.
Belpre resident Karen Davis, 68, said Gingrich is her favorite but she'll be voting for Romney, saying Gingrich's baggage would keep him from unseating President Barack Obama.
"I think (Romney) probably will come the closest to beating Obama," she said. "I'm only voting for Romney because I'm voting against Obama."
Davis said she's spent a lot of time watching recent Republican debates but plans to research local issues and races before voting.
Obama's name is the only one appearing on local Democratic ballots for the presidential nomination and Grandview Township resident Jo-Ann Earley said she and her husband will support him in March, as well as in the November general election.
"We still want the one that's in there. We don't like any of those others," she said.
Earley said she also plans to vote for former Congressman Charlie Wilson in the 6th District primary race against Cas Adulewicz. The winner would face the Republican nominee, either incumbent Bill Johnson of Marietta or Waterford resident Victor Smith, in November.
Belpre resident Deloris Jackson, 77, said she will vote in the Democratic primary but the circle next to Obama's name will be left blank. She would like to see Gingrich as president but won't cross over to the Republican primary to vote for him.
"My mom would turn over in her grave," Jackson said. "We're from the old school and we're all Democrats."
Marietta resident Eric Ford, 42, said the presidential race and the local offices interest him the most because they have the greatest impact on him.
"I don't think a lot of those state offices and the elected officials ... really represent what I stand for," he said.
Ford said he will be voting in the Republican primary and said he tends to lean conservative but he'll keep an open mind in the fall.
"At the end of the day, I'll listen to anybody," he said. "I'm not going to sit here and be swayed off of one commercial or one negative ad."
Ford said he thinks many people don't do their homework when deciding who to vote for and may support a candidate based on party affiliation or because they just want someone new in office.
"You don't do that either," he said. "You vote for someone who represents you and stands for particular issues."